The relevance of Independence Day celebration – justified or misplaced priority

The relevance of Independence Day celebration

On 6th March, 1957, Ghana became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from British colony. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who led the struggle had only one thing in mind and that featured on Ghana’s Coat of Arm “Freedom and Justice’’. The Nkrumah Government in 1952 saw education as a major instrument for national development and introduced the policy of education for all to give true meaning to the freedom and justice.

His tenure saw rapid education infrastructure across all levels. Skill education and skill training of the citizens was key on his education policy. To achieve these, a number of teacher-training institutions and universities were built to train teachers to man the classrooms to ensure all children of school going age receive equitable quality education.

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology was established purposely to usher the country into a technological revolution. After his overthrow, successive governments continue to add to his vision of making Ghana a technology hub. But over 60 years down the line, we are yet to get there.

The Independence Day anniversary is marked every year to remind ourselves of how far we have come. An occasion to take stock of what we have been able to achieve for ourselves, recognise and celebrate those who fought for our independence.

However, after 65years of independence one would ask if we truly have the freedom and if there is justice. One may further ask what type of freedom do we have as Ghanaians and how it propelled our development.

Many other countries who followed Ghana’s footstep to free themselves from white supremacy have advanced and found a place among the G20.

Unfortunately, Ghana and many other African countries continued to lag behind on the development ladder. They are struggling to provide quality education, health and security for their citizens.

Over-reliance on the colonial masters for support has plunged Ghana and many African countries into huge debts. This gave birth to a new form of colonialism called e-colonisation. They control our mineral resources, pricing of our raw materials, education, health and security. This is because our educational system has not been adequately resourced to produce critical thinkers who can build the needed technology to churn our resources into useful products that can be sold as finished goods at a price determined by us. One can say we went sleeping after independence only to wake up and realise we lost everything we had.

That questions the relevance of the Independence Day anniversary celebrations that cost the taxpayer millions of cedis every year. Although the occasion is marked by school children who are reminded of the toil of their forefathers, it is gradually being reduced to a mere speech and stress for the children who stand under the hot sun or rain. A glamorous celebration every year with a struggling education system amount to a misplaced priority.

A survey conducted by Africa Education Watch in partnership with Campaign Against Privatisation and Commercialisation of Education (CAPCOE) last year discovered that over 5000 schools still operate under trees, over 4000 primary schools are without Junior High schools and several other communities are without public schools across the country. The study also revealed that over a 10-year period i.e. between 2008 and 2018, private schools grew by 98% while public schools grew by just 13%.

Leaving education in the hands of private actors can only deepen the inequality gap and retarded progress. It would amount to burying talents and a setback to national development- the very reason why after 65 years of independence, we are still struggling to meet our needs as a country in spite of the large mineral reserves we have.

A documentary aired by Tv3 further highlights the deplorable state of education in Afram plains North and many other parts of the country. It also revealed a huge teacher deficit. One would think those in urban and peri-urban centres do not have any challenge with their education. That is far from the reality. A visit to these schools would greet you with congested classrooms with 3 to 4 learners sharing one dual desk, the absence of teaching and learning resources and very poor and unattractive school environment. A reduced contact hours due to classroom deficit resulting in shift system is the only way to ensure majority of children are given some form of education.

Overall, it costs the country between GhȻ16 million to GhȻ20 million to organise the Independence Day anniversary each year. The average cost of building basic school classroom block is estimated at GhȻ600,000. This translates into an average of 30 classroom blocks for basic schools each year from Independence Day anniversary budget alone.

It also means we do not need loan to build and furnish schools with relevant teaching and learning resources that meet the 21st century education delivery.

By de-capping the GETfund in addition to Independence Day anniversary budget, Ghana can rise up to the level of countries like China, Singapore and Malaysia who relied heavily on home grown policies using education as an instrument to achieve their current status. Even though there has been a number of laudable education reforms since Independence, they always lack the necessary resources and teacher motivation to attain desired goals.

The current STEM village schools being built are a sure way to entering 21st century education development, but the big question remain unanswered: how many students could these 4 schools admit? Otherwise, it’s for a few elite and affluent families financed by the taxpayer so their children can have free quality education at the expense of the poor.

The solution to our under development is hinged on education, and given the needed attention we can progress steadily on our development ladder.

As we mark our 65th Independence Anniversary, let us reflect if all the expenditure that goes into the celebration is worth it. If not, we need to refocus and mark the occasion with accounting to the good people of Ghana, what we have achieved in terms of eradicating poverty through prudent infrastructure that would alleviate the suffering of the masses.

Key on the accountability list should be education financing to produce highly skilled individuals with values and attitudes towards ensuring steady growth of our economy.

Education is not about how many children or individuals passed a test but how many acquired the needed skills to contribute to national development. If that must be achieved, the school environment should lend itself to rich resources that can direct and develop skills and talents of the learners.

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